How your lease can help you resolve landlord-tenant disputes

If you rent commercial or residential space, disputes with your landlord can arise. Often, these conflicts involve rent increases, repairs or permitted behaviors. Whatever the situation may be, when you are looking for a way to resolve a disagreement, your lease should be the first place to look for guidance.

These documents do more than lock you into an agreement: they set the rules. 

What to look for in your lease

Many tenants do not read a lease word-for-word, which means they may not know precisely what is in there. Even if you read a lease carefully, you might not have been looking at it from the context of resolving a dispute. 

If you are in dispute with a landlord, consult your lease. While the different types of leases can vary in their specific language, they will generally include details about:

  • Rent amounts
  • Protocols for late rent payments
  • Lease terms
  • Who is responsible for making improvements
  • Restrictions on capacity or use of the space
  • How parties can terminate the agreement legally
  • When landlords may enter the property
  • How to submit requests to landlords

In addition to these clauses, a lease may also instruct parties on the preferred method for resolving conflicts. For example, they might require landlords and tenants to pursue mediation or arbitration. A lease might also give you the answer you need by stating – in a binding agreement – what rights you and your landlord have.

Could I contest the terms in my lease?

If you examine your lease and do not find the answer you need or feel the document is unfair, consulting an attorney for guidance can be crucial. Under some circumstances, you may have grounds to contest the legality of the lease or specific clauses, like shortening a 24-hour entry notice requirement or prohibiting the tenant from suing the landlord.

Contesting a lease could prevent eviction and costly losses. It could also call out illegal practices such as discrimination, resulting in penalties for offending parties.

Disputes between landlords and tenants are not unusual, but they can be complicated. Thus, referencing your lease for guidance as soon as an issue arises will be crucial.